Saw millers and traders in Nyeri County have welcomed government plans to lift a six-year ban on logging.
They say the move will help save timber industry from imminent collapse and create jobs. The national moratorium was imposed to restrict extraction of timber from public and community forests, in a bid to protect and conserve water towers.
Timber Manufacturers Association representative Wachira Gitau said lifting the ban was timely as the country was experiencing a timber shortage.
“The ban caused a serious timber shortage which led to high prices, forcing many saw millers to close shop,” he said.
He said this will also help provide raw materials for the industry noting that most of trees in the forest have reached maturity. “We found most of the trees rotten, some of them are standing but are dead, it is a huge loss because they cannot produce timber," he added.
Meanwhile, saw millers said they were sourcing logs from cultivated forests that could not sustain the market.
“Our biggest challenge was shortage of mature trees for timber. Some farmers would cut immature trees just to make money at the expense of our businesses,” he said.
Nyeri County forest conservator Moses Wahome Ndegwa said lifting of the ban was only for licensed timber millers cleared to harvest mature trees in the forests before the ban was imposed.
“Those people who were paid to harvest mature trees in the forest are the only ones allowed to collect their trees," he said.
Wahome said trees in plantation forests are cultivated for production purposes and no indigenous trees will be harvested.
He said trees in plantation forests mature after 28 to 30 years and have fast-growing species to provide raw materials for affordable housing and furniture to the public.
“Trees harvested include Cyprus and Pine, used in construction of houses and making furniture,” he said.
He said in Nyeri, tree plantations make up ten per cent of the forest cover. “Muringato forest station is unique since it covers indigenous tree forest,” he said.
The forest conservator said those licensed to harvest trees are per-qualified and undergo vetting and they have letters from the forestry headquarters in Nairobi. “Logging is done under strict regulations to protect the ecosystems," he said.
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Wahome said forest plantation is done by community forest associations. “Communities living near forests are provided with land to cultivate, source firewood and graze their livestock and in exchange they plant and nurture trees to maturity.